Global change education in the Arctic



Bird species new to the Arctic call across ancient forests where the buzz is from the super sawmills, not the sound of elk hooves. Oil and gas wells plumb the tundra depths, and the pipelines scarify the surface, pumping fossil wealth south with a return flow measured in dollars and rubles. The eternal ice is going and tourist ships are coming, ironically to see the icy landscape that is disappearing. This is the Arctic today.

Global change has been a fact of life for many indigenous peoples in remote parts of the world for many decades. In Svalbard, Norway, which lies north of Europe in the Arctic Ocean, January 2006 was warmer than any previous April while April was five standard deviations warmer than average. Over the longer term, the Inuit in Nunavut, Canada, have found that hunting for seals—traditionally their major food supply—has become much more difficult as sea pup numbers have declined along with sea ice [Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, 2004]. About 20 Alaskan villages are candidates for relocation because of severe coastal erosion, exacerbated by loss of protective sea ice. For example, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that it could cost from $100 million to $400 million to relocate Kivalina, which has only 385 inhabitants [U.S. General Accounting Office, 2003].